BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The five best-performing U.S. technology mutual funds are soaring for a second year in a row, reflecting investors' appetite for riskier stocks, including cloud-computing company Salesforce.com (CRM), Chinese Internet-search firm Baidu (BIDU) and movie-streaming provider Netflix (NFLX).
The top-five performers have recorded returns of 37% to 58% so far this year. The average tech fund surged 62% last year after imploding 45% in 2008, which kicked off the deepest economic contraction in 80 years.
To be sure, performance has been volatile, as the average technology mutual fund, as tracked by Morningstar, is up 20% both this year and over the past three months. Still, that's double the increase of the
S&P 500 Index
of the largest U.S. companies for 2010.
Fund managers and investors say technology-company orders, which have picked up in the past three months, probably will stretch into next year, according to Morningstar technology-funds analyst Courtney Goethals Dobrow. From the start of the year through mid-August, technology stocks had fallen 3%, so the late-in-the-year rebound represents all of the year's gains.
The top performers this year have a run-and-gun management style, for the most part, as seen by their turnover rate, which is as high as 833%. A turnover rate of 100% means a fund's roster of stocks has changed completely once in a calendar year.
Technology-fund managers enjoy freedom in deciding what to buy, as seen in the makeup of their portfolios, which range from a big bet on the seemingly staid
, which revolutionized the world the with iPod, iPhone and iPad, to the upstart
, maker of the popular mobile-game application
, and the clearly out-of-place Mexican restaurant chain
Chipotle Mexican Grill
But most funds feed from the same trough. The most popular picks tend to be Apple, Salesforce.com, Baidu, Netflix, online retailer
, Internet auctioneer
, software giant
and Internet search company
Some of the big, and less agile, tech funds are putting in a good showing this year, especially the $1.3 billion
Allianz RCM Technology Fund
. It's just out of the top five with a 33% return, coming on the heels of a gain of 57% last year.
Fidelity Advisor Technology Fund
, with $719 million in assets, is up 26% by riding Apple hard with a gigantic 15% allocation. Apple has gained 52%.
In inverse order, here are the five best-performing technology mutual funds this year. Performance data, provided by Morningstar, reflect returns through Dec. 9.